Gone Home shows how storytelling can be the main focus of video games.
I’ll be honest here. I wasn’t expecting to like Gone Home. It just didn’t appear to be my type of game. I usually play video games that are action packed, but I also enjoy story driven titles like Heavy Rain. I still enjoyed that game because there was still a dose of combat in it.
A game like Dear Esther appeared boring to me. I know a lot of people like it, but it just wasn’t the type of game that I would love. It had none of the explosion and theatrics, but it kept me playing until the very end. I was sure not to get Gone Home until I’ve seen people post a myriad of glowing reviews online all at once.
Consequently, I succumbed to the hype train and bought the game. Sometimes this works in my favor because I get pleasantly surprised or I end up with buyer’s regret and guilt for buying something I know I wouldn’t like.
Gone Home ended up to be a truly pleasant surprise.It had none of the explosion and theatrics, but it kept me playing until the very end.
No puzzles, button mashing, fighting, and enemies. It’s a game that revolves around a compelling story crafted through intricately designed bits and pieces of artifacts inside a house. The only thing you have to do is to piece everything together to see how the story unfolds.
This isn’t a review or analysis of Gone Home. I’m writing this article to talk about how this it redefines our ideas for video games. When we think of video games, we usually think of obstacles, puzzles, or enemies that we need to fight to get to the main goal. Even narrative focused games like Heavy Rain or The Walking Dead have traditional gaming elements of combat fused into gameplay.
Do we always have to fight or beat something whenever we play video games?Do we always have to fight or beat something whenever we play video games? When I was playing Gone Home, I was expecting someone or a creepy thing to scare the shit out of me. Why? I think it’s because we are used to having a foe or always having the need to defeat whatever obstacle from past games.
However, there are recent games that attempt to place combat and puzzles in the backseat or eradicate them completely. We have the aforementioned games as examples among others out there.
I applaud these developers for challenging the ideas of gaming into something more than ‘winning.’ Sure, Gone Home has some codes you need to figure out but it’s nothing that requires mental effort. You also didn’t need to K.O anyone to progress to the next round. There was no winner in the end because all you had to do was experience and unravel the story.
Gone Home highlights one of the key elements I enjoyed in Naughty Dog‘s The Last of Us. In the latter, we are able to experience the stories of numerous survivors or victims of the post-apocalypse. While we only played as Joel and Ellie in the game, we are able to piece together how the world and its people fell apart from noticing how bodies laid on the ground to simple notes scattered about.
We didn’t need a cut scene or a flashback to show us what happened or make us sympathize with these characters. These artifacts were enough to make us feel for them and know what happened.
Gone Home takes this aspect of the The Last of Us and crafts it into one whole game. It reflected this in a way wherein we let the environment and objects tell a story without it being spoon fed to us. the environment and objects tell a story without it being spoon fed to us. Sometimes it will be a straightforward note, but most times, we assume or interpret its meaning on our own. Sam’s narration was also top notch and there are time when you could read between the lines.
I’d love to see a video game use this idea in a bigger setting. Imagine an open world video game where you’re the last person on earth. You’ve lost your memory and you don’t know what happened on Earth. There are no enemies or extremely hard puzzles. All you have to do is to unravel a mystery through observing what was left behind.
Of course, I don’t want all video games to be like this. I still want my dose of action and explosions. However, I would love to see more video games maximize its potential for innovative storytelling. Gone Home shows us that we might just be in the right direction.